mystyr_e's World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (PC) review

Still has some spring in her step

At this point, I'd expect you already have an opinion about what you feel concerning World of Warcraft. Literally the biggest MMO right now, the game is nearly 8 years old and subscriber base is still pretty high. And despite would-be "killers" that have entered (and quickly exited in some cases) the scene, the juggernaut that is WoW is still recognizable. But as Bono, lead singer of mega-hit band U2 said once, "it's easy to be the biggest in the world, we want to be the best". Typical Bono-esque statements aside, this is can also apply to WoW. The fans still playing are still pretty strong but is it big by quality or big by reputation? Blizzard's answer to other contenders to their throne is Mists of Pandaria, their 4th expansion and despite similarities to a certain movie franchise, it's still a solid and well-crafted addition yet one that shows WoW's age is really getting noticeable.

Your journey into Mists of Pandaria can come from one of 2 ways: starting a brand new Pandaren and questing on an instanced area known as the Wandering Isle, essentially one big turtle with all the areas on its back. Choosing from one of 7 classes (which includes the brand-new Monk class) eventually after completing the quests, you'll make your first decision: Alliance or Horde. Normally the race determines the faction but here you can choose which makes it welcome for those who want the new race yet don't want it restricted to one group. The monk class (which ever race sans worgen and goblin can pick) is similar to a rogue where you build up what's called chi which you spend on other abilities as opposed to making one ability more potent. It's a fun class as it's more "button-heavy" and having specific monk quests which will give you an XP bonus is a nice speedy way to get to max level.

Which brings me to the other way: taking your lvl 85 and working towards the new level 90 cap in the continent of Pandaria. The Alliance and Horde, previously battling in a naval assault, gets shipwrecked and lands on Pandaria. With new resources and potentially new allies, the storyline centers on the interaction between the faction war and the pandaren race caught in the middle. Even though Blizzard has been getting a bit more creative with their quests, this is still standard MMO fare which comes in 3 flavors: kill a certain amount of x, collect a certain amount of y or loot a certain amount of z off mobs. Granted after 8 years, this is WoW's basic formula and has same-y as it is, it doesn't feel grindy which is important.

Once you're at max level, you'll still have your typical new battlegrounds, dungeons and raids but there's several new additions. The most substantial one of these is pet battles and I can say straight up it's Pokemon and I can leave it at that. But I won't. Using pets you can find in the wild, from attending Blizzcon or buying Collector's Editions or even the trading card game, you'll battle in a turn-based system involving your pets who will level up, gain new abilities and build out a team to take on pet battle masters (sadly there's no gyms or badges). An addicting game-within-a-game, it's a good time-sink for a game that doesn't need to add more longevity by just adding raids but without any noticeable rewards for your actual character as bragging rights, it's up to you whether to keep pursuing it.

Another addition comes in the form of challenge modes. Basically take a dungeon and make it timed with completing it within a certain amount will gain you a reward with even better rewards if you complete them all with a specific ranking. Requiring more teamwork and communication, not to mention having normalized gear (so you can't bring your epic iLevel 500 whatever and just steamroll the place) will make it a great challenge for those who don't want to just raid all week. There's also scenarios which are kind of like instanced group quests but their inclusion just doesn't feel as substantial and felt like another thing to add to make the expansion seem more fatter with stuff to do.

Despite World of Warcraft's age, the new areas in the expansion are downright gorgeous. Using Asian influences filtered through its own style, there's some incredibly pretty areas all around. Equally so is the soundtrack which yet again is a pleasant listen and perfect backdrop for exploring the zones. Also, the new pandaren race actually seem to blend in quite effortlessly to its cast of races and the culture and vibe from the areas reminded me a lot of the calmer places of Northrend.

One question that I'm sure someone will want answered is "will this make me turn back to WoW?" Well that depends on why you left. If it was for Guild Wars 2, it's understandable. But if you thought the previous expansion was bad then Mists of Pandaria is a way better outing than Cataclysm was. The amount of stuff to do, however formulaic and almost un-changing as it's always been, is still compelling despite the subscription fee. However if you left because WoW still plays like WoW after all this time then this expansion probably won't change your mind. But there's enough to Mists of Pandaria to at least warrant a return. Or even a full relapse as it were.

1 Comments
Posted by MURDERSMASH

Those dungeon challenge modes sound pretty cool. Thanks for the review!

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